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Cheering in rarified air: Mary Roush, WVU’s Mountaineer, recognized nationally

Let’s go, Mountaineer.

Mary Roush, who is wearing the buckskins and toting the long rifle this year as the Mountaineer mascot of WVU, just achieved a new pinnacle of success.

That was when officials from the national Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind., called this week to let her know she was being named its “Best Collegiate Live Human Mascot,” an inaugural award for the costumes and characters representing the team and the brand.

Roush, a freshman public relations major from Mason County and the third female in school history to serve as the Morgantown school’s mascot, bested Notre Dame’s iconic leprechaun for the award, among others.

“What a surprise and an honor,” she said. “And I was already honored to be the Mountaineer.”

“I’m happy and thrilled for Mary,” said Sonja Wilson, WVU’s longtime advisor to the university’s mascot program. “And really, this award goes out not only to Mary, but to all the Mountaineers who came before her.”

Call it a West Virginia thing.

Or, a West Virginia Mountaineer mascot thing.

The Mountaineer doesn’t just start the “Let’s go” cheer at a sporting contest.

Mascots take part in Read-Aloud events at schools, too.

A mascot might be spied at, say, a ribbon-cutting or the first night of a county fair.

Or a nursing facility, perhaps, to help a resident celebrate a milestone birthday.

There’s definitely television time, too.

Related to that, Roush’s season-opener football game as the Mountaineer wasn’t just any game.

It was the game.

The resurgence of the Backyard Brawl with Pitt.

No pressure, huh?

“No-o-o,” she said, laughing. “It’s just a legendary rivalry.”

What was she thinking about, the whole time?

“All I was saying was, ‘Please don’t let this thing misfire,’” she said, referring to the rifle she gets to shoot off after every WVU score on the football field.

“And I do get made fun of for my push-ups,” she said. “On occasion.”

Those, she does, every time a player with a flying WV on the side of his helmet crosses the goal line for a touchdown. It’s a mascot tradition.

She likes the unique properties of the traditions that come with being the WVU Mountaineer.

“Well, I love being at the games, of course, but I really enjoy going out and getting to meet people,” she said. “Little kids, especially.”

There is that “live human” component of her new award, also, she added.

“The coolest thing about being out there is that you get to show your personality. You aren’t encased in some costume, with something over your head. It’s you.”

And, in accordance with the words of the school fight song, it’s West Virginia.

That’s why she isn’t taking country roads elsewhere after she graduates.

She wants to use her degree and her skills to continue cheerleading, in a societal way, for a state that often comes up on the other end of the scoreboard, as far as quality-of-life benchmarks go.

“The way you help a place is by staying,” she said.

“And I love this place.”

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